It’s no secret that the Yankees are ready to present a significant long-term contract to Japanese pitching ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto. The question, rather, is if the 25-year-old righty will embrace the interlocking NY and don the pinstripes, or take his incredible talent elsewhere. Namely, the crosstown rival New York Mets.
We’ve discussed Yamamoto six ways to Sunday. He’s got power in that right arm despite a slender 5-foot-10 frame. His slider slides, but also cuts hard and downward, and his splitter is an elite out pitch. Watching him pitch brings back memories of Masahiro Tanaka, but even more dominant.
And yet, general manager Brian Cashman has some competition. Owner Hal Steinbrenner can’t count on the check he writes being the largest, nor is the Mets’ Steve Cohen the only threat.
Let’s take a look at the state of Yamamoto’s free agency and where the true finalists among “half the league” stand.
New York Yankees. Let’s start right in the biggest of the big markets because the Yankees have made their interest clear. When it comes to arms, Yoshinobu Yamamoto is their guy. Cashman, Steinbrenner, and manager Aaron Boone will meet with him in Los Angeles today and make their offer. Fate decides the rest.
New York Mets. And of course, the Mets are probably primed to make Yamamoto the biggest offer yet. Cashman himself has complimented Cohen on his willingness to spend big money. “I don’t know if anybody can compete with Steve Cohen,” the veteran GM said at the Winter Meetings. Cue the Dodgers signing Shohei Ohtani to a record deal, and all signs point to one of the New York teams signing Yamamoto to a slightly smaller contract.
San Francisco Giants. However, don’t be surprised if another California team gets involved. Susan Slusser at the SF Chronicle reported whispers of the Giants having “an edge” on Yamamoto. The Athletic’s Jim Bowden didn’t mention him by name, but did note the Giants are reportedly “all in” on free agency this year.
That said, it’s hard to imagine Yamamoto and his agent, Joel Wolfe, picking San Francisco. The Giants have largely shied away from big free agent contracts in recent years. They also pulled a $350 million offer to Carlos Correa after an issue with his physical. Unless Yamamoto likes San Francisco for non-baseball reasons, the Giants are very much an underdog.
Chicago Cubs. Wrigleyville is ready to roll again and gave new manager Craig Counsell $40 million to prove it. MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan reports the Cubs are indeed interested in Yoshinobu Yamamoto along with the other big market squads. Chicago was also in on Ohtani and already has star infielder Dansby Swanson. They’re an underdog in the Yamamoto race, but the Cubbies seem prepared to make a competitive offer.
Boston Red Sox. Don’t look now, but the Red Sox could be the “mystery team” this year. Furthermore, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reported that Yamamoto is one of the team’s “top priorities” in free agency. Boston knows Japan well, having signed outfielder Masataka Yoshida last year.
However, new team president Craig Breslow is a former pitcher and knows his team needs reliable arms. It thus seems unlikely that he’ll go all-in on Yamamoto putting up ace numbers in MLB, and the hard-hitting AL East too. Instead, he’ll probably pursue more established pitching like Blake Snell or Jordan Montgomery.